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Egypt's youth activists call for release of 'political detainees'

Egyptian activists at conference on Sunday issue fresh denunciations of arrests of protesters and alleged police abuse

Ahram Online , Monday 17 Feb 2014
Protesters in front of the journalists' syndicate building late on Sunday (Photo courtsy of Al-Horiya lel Gedaan)

Egyptian activists renewed calls on Sunday for the release of detainees arrested amid a government crackdown in recent weeks, condemning what they described as oppressive practices by the country's security apparatus.

Dozens of political activists joined familites of the detainees at a Sunday conference to criticise the government's "trampling on human rights and quashing of dissent." 

Protesters in front of the journalists' syndicate building late on Sunday chanted anti-police slogans holding aloft pictures of the detainees.

The conference, convened by the journalists' syndicate Freedoms Committee, reviewed eyewitness accounts of the families as well as former detainees that accuse police of abuse.

The government has waged a crackdown on Islamists since the military – prompted by mass protests – deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July. Thousands of his supporters have been jailed and hundreds others killed in street violence.

But the arrests of many non-Islamist protesters and prominent activists have fueled anxiety that the country is returning to the oppressive policies common under long-time leader Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year-rule was brought down by the 2011 popular revolt.

"The ruling regime and its institutions is taking no heed of human rights, steering the country back to days before the 25 January [uprising]," Amr Ali of the April 6 Youth movement said.

The group's coordinator slammed what he labeled a "campaign of arbitrary arrests and detention renewals" by interim authorities.

Two leading members of the youth group, Amr Adel and Ahmed Maher along with another long-time activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah – all deemed as symbols of the protest movement that ignited the popular revolt that toppled Mubarak – have been detained for months and sentenced in December to three years in jail for their role in recent protests. 

They have been appealing the verdict – the first under a law passed in November against unauthorised protests.

Egypt's interim authorities have come under criticism from local and international rights groups for arrests as well as accusations of abuse and ill-treatment of detainees by security forces.

"As the scope of repression across the country continues to expand unabated, the hopes of freedom and justice are becoming more elusive," London-based Amnesty International said in a February report.

The interior ministry has denied accusations of torture. 

Egypt's top prosecutor said last week that Egyptian prisons have no political detainees. He said that all those currently imprisoned are being detained pending court or prosecution orders or have received courts sentences.

Activists vowed to take to the streets next week to organise human chains calling for the release of those in custody regardless of their political affiliations.

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